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An elegant dish to serve for the holidays is duck. Since duck parts are not readily available, I have to buy whole ducks and bone them, which is actually an advantage, because one duck can make four dishes. Make duck stock (and then soup) with the bones. Make duck liver pate with the liver. Make duck confit with the leg quarters. And what to do with the breasts? Traditionally in France, duck breasts are cooked high and fast for crispy skin and rare meat. My new favorite duck preparation is to smoke the breasts first. The stovetop smoker is a wonderful tool for quickly imparting a smoky taste. The thick and fatty duck skin helps to keep the breasts moist. But since no one likes flabby poultry skin, I finish the breasts by crisping the skin in a hot skillet.

Traditionally, duck is served with a fruit sauce. But duck is delicious with the beautiful fresh chestnuts from Italy that are in the market now. 

Crispy Smoked Duck Breasts with Chestnut Sauce

  • 2 duck breasts, with skin on
  • salt and pepper

Season the duck with salt and pepper. Place skin-side up in a stovetop smoker with smoking dust in the bottom (apple, cherry, or pecan chips). Place a probe thermometer in the meat. Secure the lid. Heat on high until you see wisps of smoke, then turn down heat to low. Smoke until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 130 degrees, about 20 minutes. Keep the temperature of the smoking box between 150 to 175 degrees.

Heat a nonstick skillet on high and place the duck breasts skin-side down. Cook until the skin is very crispy, about 3 minutes. Remove and place on a cutting board and let the meat rest for 5 minutes. Slice very thinly and serve with sauce.

for the sauce:

  • 1 pound fresh chestnuts
  • 2 tablespoons duck fat
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 2 cups duck or veal stock 

Cut an X into the chestnuts and place on a sheet pan. Roast in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes. Squeeze each chestnut to remove the shells. Heat the duck fat in a small skillet and saute the shallots and garlic until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the sherry and bring to a boil. Add the stock and bring to a boil and reduce to half of its original volume. Add the chestnuts. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.


2 Comments for “Duck Breast Fed: Crispy Smoked Duck Breasts with Chestnut Sauce”  

  1. Denise Evans

    Anne, do you have a source that anyone can use to buy duck? I would love to make this for Christmas.

    Thanks, and happy holidays!
    Denise Evans

  2. Anne

    I buy the frozen ducks at the local supermarkets.